Wheelchair Fencing’s Vibhas Sen & Ksenia Ovsyannikova on ‘Mission for Inclusion’ in the USA
The fencers will promote inclusivity and awareness around the U.S as they participate in the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP) administered by the UT Center for Sport, Peace, & Society
Indian wheelchair fencer, Vibhas Sen and Russian wheelchair fencer and IWAS Wheelchair Executive Committee member, Ksenia Ovsyannikova have embarked on a ‘Mission for Inclusion’ that will see them tour the United States as ‘Emerging Leaders’ of the 2017 Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP).
The Global Sports Mentoring Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State administered by the UT Center for Sport, Peace, & Society, combines mentorship and cultural exchange to connect more than 100 changemakers on a mission to positively impact their communities by increasing access and opportunities.
The initiative is made up for two branches; Empower Women through Sport and Sport for the Community and since 2012, alumni from 63 countries have participated in the programme, forming an international network of leaders, athletes, coaches, educators, and advocates promoting equality and inclusion.
At Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, both Vibhas and Ksenia will be mentored by two leaders in the area of adaptive sports advocacy, research, and programmes: Mary Patstone, director of adaptive sports and recreation, and Dr. Cheri Blauwet, attending physician at Spaulding, chairperson of the IPC Medical Committee, and seven-time wheelchair racing Paralympic medalist. It is hoped these connections will assist both Vibhas and Ksenia to meet their programme goals.
Vibhas said, “In 2016, India won more Paralympic medals than Olympic medals, even though we had 100 less athletes,” “If we work hard to develop more people like me we can make a great impact everywhere in the country. There is talent and there is interest, we just need to be better at finding people.” The connections made during the one-month mentorship will aim to give Vibhas the tools to promote a nationwide movement of adaptive sports in India.
Ksenia aims to change the perception of disability and expand the adaptive sports movement by increasing athlete recruitment in Russia’s hospitals and rehabilitation centres. She also hopes to launch special sports festivals, where she and her team will lead inclusive clinics integrated with able bodied participants to teach children how to fence. Ksenia also aims to develop volunteer networks and organise sports events that place an empowering spotlight on disability sport in Moscow and beyond.
“I want to show that disabled people can do almost anything that everyone else can do. We just need to understand each other’s’ situations.", she said.
So far, the fencers have visited places such as The University of Southern California to discuss the importance of sports-based initiatives as a key diplomatic tool around the world and met with members of the U.S Department of State to discuss supportive governmental policy whilst sharing ideas and personal experience.
Public schools around the country are also benefiting from the mentorship, such as Prince George’s County public schools where inclusive learning and physical education classes were on the agenda. Vibhas and Ksenia assisted in the inclusive learning of young children with a range of abilities, with a focus on developing motor skills.
The Emerging Leaders also spent time at DPI Adaptive Fitness where they joined an intensive fitness session including cardio boxing and circuit training.
With an emphasis on the exchange of cultures, Vibhas even introduced fellow Emerging Leaders to Holi, the Indian ‘festival of colour’!
IWAS wishes Vibhas and Ksenia all the very best for the remainder of their time in the United States!
Follow the Global Sport Mentoring Program and Vibhas and Ksenia’s journey here.Photo Credit: Global Sport Mentoring Program